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31. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
In reading these precepts, our heart and conscience acknowledge their beauty. We "delight in the law of God, after the inward man." We "consent unto the law, that it is holy, just, and good." And we cannot help exclaiming, in the words of David, "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.' If these were practised among men, God might, once more, look down upon the world which he has made, and pronounce it "very good."
Remember, then, we are ourselves the persons who are to assist in fulfilling this: in bringing about the time, when, as the prophet says, "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” 2 The precepts are not issued to angels, to beings of another world: they are given to direct the lives of all who profess and call themselves Christians.
But how great a change must take place in the heart, before it is thus disposed to love an enemy, to bless them that curse us, to do good to them which hate us. We see the natural state of the heart in the case of Esau. His brother Jacob had used him despitefully: had taken away his goods: had despoiled him of his birthright and his blessing. (Gen. xxvii. 41.) "And Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; 2 Isa. lxv. 25.
1 Ps. xix. 8.
then will I slay my brother Jacob." Grace changes this malice for pity, this revenge for benevolence. It is exemplified by the martyr Stephen. (Acts vii. 60.) He, too, was used despitefully; men took away not his goods only, but his life: but he prayed for those who were thus treating him, and breathed his last, saying, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
Every Christian will desire to act after this model. And if he is frowned upon, and reproached, because he is "not of the world," and does not live like those who have taken this world for their portion; he will bless, and curse not: he will "resist not evil:""the same mind will be in him which was in Christ Jesus: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."
Without looking to extraordinary cases, like those of Esau or Stephen, in common affairs of life, how far are men from observing that rule so much applauded, but so little practised, As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Is it not more common for men to think, with regard to others, how they can make the most advantage of them, than how they can do the most good to them? If I take advantage of this man's ignorance, of that man's necessity, that I may benefit or enrich myself, am I doing as I would that men should do to me? When I see, in the weakness or simplicity of a fellow-creature, or it may be in the corruption of his nature, a character which I may practise upon, to gratify my wishes or advance my
interests,―am I doing as I would that man should do to me? Yet such is life, that these are its ordinary transactions: and they prove, too surely, that men are "very far gone from original righteousness," and very far from having returned to it again. They must, however, return to it, if they will be "children of the kingdom." See, by what follows, that he who is "the door" of the kingdom, requires no less.
32. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
37. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.
38. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
So much have we all to learn, and so much have many to unlearn, that they may be the children of the Highest.
Let no one say, if we are to live thus,
must needs go out of the world." Experience is otherwise experience shows, that they who direct their lives in nearest conformity to these rules, instead of being, as they might fear, trampled on and ruined, do in truth inherit a blessing; and find that God, in the order of his providence, secures from harm those who believe his word, and entrust themselves to his care. He, indeed, is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil: but far more certainly is he kind to those, who are his own children by adoption in Jesus Christ. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
And again, let none be discouraged, because their natural spirit is so unlike the Christian spirit, and inclines them to despair. Seen from below, the hill which we must climb is so far out of our reach, that the ascent appears impossible. Yet many have ascended, and looked down from the top with joy and thankfulness: they have found the footing easier, the labour less, than they had feared for they had with them Jesus, "the author and finisher of their faith;" and "his grace has been sufficient for them."
Instead, therefore, of taking alarm at the excellence of these precepts, let their excellence animate you to follow them. The spirit of heaven must be cultivated on earth. Else how does it Else how does it appear that ye are seeking heaven? What thank have ye? "What do ye more than others?" To pardon, if injured; -to forbear, if oppressed;-to yield, if provoked; to give, whenever we can benefit by
giving;-to lend, looking for nothing again; this is the practice which results from faith in Christ Jesus for all this HE practised, and it is required of his disciples that they "follow his steps."
May that faith, the root of all charity, be strengthened in our hearts, and the fruits become more and more abundant !
THE PROOFS, AND THE BLESSINGS, OF CHRISTIAN FAITH.
LUKE vi. 39-49.
(Matt. xv. 14.)
39. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40. The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
It is a melancholy truth, that blindness perpetuates blindness. The disciple seldom rises above his master. Ignorance is easily led: and a corrupt heart, averse from spiritual things, lends itself to error. If the priest will give ready absolution, the
3 Certain limitations to these general precepts will be found on Matt. v. 38-42.